The Supreme Court collegium has termed as a “matter of grave concern” the Centre’s selective clearance of names of candidates recommended as high court judges and disregard for seniority while giving the goahead to elevations.
The collegium pointed to the Centre objecting to the recommendation of advocate John Sathyan as a judge of Madras High Court as he had shared social media posts critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In an official resolution adopted on Tuesday but made public on Wednesday, the collegium of Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and K.M. Joseph said: “Necessary action for the issuance of a notification for the elevation of persons who have been recommended earlier in point of time should be taken at the earliest including the name of Shri R. John Sathyan which has been reiterated by this Collegium on 17 January 2023.”
The resolution was released while recommending the names of four district judges: R. Sakthivel, P. Dhanabal, Chinnasamy Kumarappan and K. Rajasekar — as judges of Madras High Court. Under the memorandum of procedure (MoP) governing the appointments and transfers of judges, the Centre has to abide by the collegium’s decision particularly when a name is reiterated.
Also, it is a convention that names first recommended should be cleared before those suggested subsequently.
The collegium said in terms of its earlier resolution dated January 17, 2023, it had recommended the appointment of advocate Ramaswamy Neelakandan as a judge of Madras High Court and he should be given priority in appointment over the four names recommended on Tuesday.
The collegium said Neelakandan was 48 and Rajasekar 47 as on Tuesday.
“Shri Neelakandan who is a member of the Bar has been recommended earlier in point of time must be appointed before Shri Rajasekar is appointed. Otherwise, Shri Rajasekar, who is a judicial officer and younger than Shri Neelakandan, would rank senior to Shri Neelakandan. Such a deviation in seniority would be unfair and against the settled convention. Hence, while recommending the (names) for elevation, the Collegium is of the view that his appointment should be notified after the appointment of Shri Ramaswamy Neelakandan is notified,” Tuesday’s resolution said.
“The Collegium is of the considered view that necessary action for the issuance of a notification for the elevation of persons who have been recommended earlier in point of time should be taken at the earliest including the name of Shri R. John Sathyan which has been reiterated by this Collegium on 17 January 2023. The names which have been recommended earlier in point of time including the reiterated names ought not to be withheld or overlooked as this disturbs their seniority whereas those recommended later steal march on them. Loss of seniority of candidates recommended earlier in point of time has been noted by the Collegium and is a matter of grave concern,” the resolution added.
It went on: “The Collegium, therefore, resolves to recommend that S/Shri (i) R. Sakthivel, (ii) P. Dhanabal, (i ii) Chinnasamy Kumparappan and (iv) K. Rajasekar, Judicial Officers, be appointed as Judges of the Madras High Court. Their seniority be fixed in terms of the above resolution.”
On February 6, the Centre notified the appointment of five individuals as judges before elevating Sathyan, although the collegium had on January 17 given precedence to Sathyan in view of seniority.